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Unforgettable Characters We've Met Travelling...

A candlemaker in Italy...
I was hosted in Italy by a stranger I'll call JAC who worked nightshift at a bakery making bread. He told me he was the son of an Italian opera singer and a British dancer. JAC lived in a humble space amidst a vineyard where he made soaps and candles and offered hospitality to travelers. The only thing he asked in return was that visitors design a dress, drawing on a paper pad where other travelers had also designed their dresses. JAC cooked and served wonderful Italian fare in the garden with his homemade candles and a vase of wildflowers gracing the table. When I left he gave me a jar of local honey. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity of this humble soul whose life intersected with mine along the way.
Sally, Lavelle, USA


Two young men in Chengdu, China...
Thinking back to 1989; I'm 59 years old and I'm in China on assignment looking at Traditional Chinese Medicine. I'm driving in the countryside with two 20-something health officials. The sun is shining. The windows are down and the car radio is blaring Chinese pop songs. The young guys teach me the chorus and I sing along with them at the top of my voice. Fabulous! I will never forget the two of them.
Evelyn, Toronto, Canada


Blind teenager in Denmark...
Through some odd twist of fate, I ended up as a camp counselor for blind and partially sighted children at a center in Denmark. That experience as a whole was an unforgettable one, but Nina, one of the girls in my group of completely blind teens, was unforgettable. She turned 16 the day after the kids arrived. Brilliant, quiet, and hands-down one of the sweetest people I've had the pleasure of knowing, she'd been studying music (piano and singing) for several years and told me on one long walk that she hoped to become a music teacher. Most memorable: she had a wonderful habit of singing jazz and Broadway tunes while helping chop vegetables for dinner. I was torn between awe at her singing and terror at the thought of her accidentally chopping off a finger.
Kate, Chennai, India


The King of Pushkar in Rajasthan, India...
A couple of years ago in Rajasthan I met a man who calls himself Pushkar Raj (The king of Pushkar) . He has been without legs for all or most of his life. However, he has decided to make the most of his condition. He has turned himself into a work of art; he goes around Pushkar on a rolling platform covered with art and tourists take photos of him. At the front of this platform is a small copper pot into which people can deposit donations. He never asks. And he never gets upset if people take his photo without giving him a contribution. With his income, he has put his son through medical school. With disabilities or not, I am sure he has inspired more than one person. He certainly has inspired me!
Danielle, Kingston, Canada

Editor's note: Check out this photo of The King of Pushkar.


A quiet young Japanese man...
After traveling mostly solo in Mongolia for one month, I was packing up my gear at Eiggy's guesthouse in Ulaan Baatar the night before my departure - a long bus ride over the border into Siberia. A quiet young Japanese man I had befriended at the guesthouse placed in the palm of my hand an old Japanese coin on a string, a talisman for my upcoming journey. I was, of course, humbled and touched by Yu's thoughtfulness. As if that gesture wasn't enough, he awoke before dawn the following morning, crept out of bed once he was certain I was dressed and ready to leave, and without a word lifted my overweight gear onto my back. Then, when I asked him why he woke so early, Yu's reply came in a near-whisper: I know what it feels like to travel alone and to leave a place alone in the early morning darkness. I didn't want you to feel like that, I wanted to say goodbye and wish you a safe journey. Unforgettable... (and now, years later, Yu is still a friend!)
Amit, Bali.


He challenged all of us...
My unforgettable character was a co-traveller on a trip to Peru. He was a multicultural, well travelled gentleman who managed to challenge the travellers and guides frequently. He would push for special treatment, but then share it when received, or back off when he knew he had pushed as far as we could go. Despite this, he was the most sensitive to the nuances of the places and things we saw. He always made us late to get back on the road. Why? He was still shopping for a sandwich for the 'momma' who was hungry, still buying trinkets (he didn't need) to support someone's livelihood. He was rich in knowledge and experiences and as much as he could exasperate us, he made us think, see and feel a layer of travel that some were often too busy or preoccupied to see.
Maria, Ottawa, Canada


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